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Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumor

A gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor is cancer that forms in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, which includes the stomach, small intestine and large intestine. The tumors develop from cells that produce hormones to help regulate digestive juices and the muscles used to move food through the stomach and intestines. Most carcinoid tumors occur in the appendix, small intestine and the rectum.

Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors grow slowly and are difficult to diagnose. Indigestion and stomach discomfort can be symptoms of early cancer, but other disorders may cause the same symptoms. Having a carcinoid tumor increases your chance of getting other cancers in the digestive system, either at the same time or later.

Risk Factors for Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumor

Risk factors for gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor include:

  • Family history of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) syndrome
  • Certain conditions that affect the stomach's ability to produce stomach acid, such as atrophic gastritis, pernicious anemia or Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
  • Smoking cigarettes

Diagnosis of Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumor

Doctors use the following tests to confirm a diagnosis of gastrointestinal carcinoma:

  • Complete medical history
  • Physical exam
  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • MRI
  • PET scan
  • Needle biopsy

Your doctor may also order blood tests to help determine the diagnosis, including a complete blood count (CBC), liver function and tumor markers.

Treatment Options for Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors

Treatment of gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors usually includes surgery and may include chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Surgery types include:

  • Fulguration, the use of an electric current to burn away the tumor using a special tool
  • Cryosurgery, in which an instrument is used to freeze and destroy the abnormal tissue
  • Radiofrequency ablation, which uses a special probe with tiny electrodes that release high-energy radio waves to kill the cancer cells
  • Resection, which is surgery to remove part or all of the organ containing the cancer.


Chemotherapy is the standard treatment for locally advanced cancers, in which the tumor has grown into nearby blood vessels and other tissues, but has not spread to the liver or distant organs.

Radiation Therapy

We use the most advanced technology to help patients fight cancer with less scarring, shorter recovery times and a quicker return to productivity.

Clinical Trials and Research for Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors

As a teaching hospital affiliated with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School, Memorial Hermann-TMC offers you and your loved ones access to innovative treatments and technologies as soon as they are made available, whether in the development and testing phases, or after FDA approval.

Patients who qualify also have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials of treatments that would not otherwise be available to them.